Ben Webster - Live in Copenhagen - 1965 (Getty images)

Ben Webster - one of The Big Three (Photo: Getty Images)

Ben Webster Quartet – Live In Copenhagen – 1965 – Past Daily Downbeat

Ben Webster - Live in Copenhagen - 1965 (Getty images)
Ben Webster – one of The Big Three (Photo: Getty Images)

Ben Webster Quartet – live in Copenhagen – January 10, 1965 – DRK-Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Ben Webster to chill out on a hot Summer Sunday – Recorded at Radio House by DRK in Copenhagen on January 10, 1965. Joining Webster is Kenny Drew, piano – Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, bass and Alex Riel, drums.

Ben Webster was considered one of the “big three” of swing tenors along with Coleman Hawkins (his main influence) and Lester Young. He had a tough, raspy, and brutal tone on stomps (with his own distinctive growls) yet on ballads he would turn into a pussy cat and play with warmth and sentiment.

In 1940 (after short stints in 1935 and 1936), Ben Webster became Duke Ellington’s first major tenor soloist. During the next three years he was on many famous recordings, including “Cotton Tail” (which in addition to his memorable solo had a saxophone ensemble arranged by Webster) and “All Too Soon.” After leaving Ellington in 1943 (he would return for a time in 1948-1949), Webster worked on 52nd Street; recorded frequently as both a leader and a sideman; had short periods with Raymond Scott, John Kirby, and Sid Catlett; and toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic during several seasons in the 1950s. Although his sound was considered out-of-style by that decade, Webster’s work on ballads became quite popular and Norman Granz recorded him on many memorable sessions. Webster recorded a classic set with Art Tatum and generally worked steadily, but in 1964 he moved permanently to Copenhagen where he played when he pleased during his last decade. Although not all that flexible, Webster could swing with the best and his tone was a later influence on such diverse players as Archie Shepp, Lew Tabackin, Scott Hamilton, and Bennie Wallace.

Webster suffered a cerebral bleed in Amsterdam in September 1973, following a performance at the Twee Spieghels in Leiden, and died on 20 September. His body was cremated in Copenhagen and his ashes were buried in the Assistens Cemetery in the Nørrebro section of the city.

Webster’s private collection of jazz recordings and memorabilia is archived in the jazz collections at the University Library of Southern Denmark, Odense.

Ben Webster used the same saxophone from 1938 until his death in 1973. Ben left instructions that the horn was never to be played again. It is on display in the Jazz Institute at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Ben Webster has a street named after him in southern Copenhagen, “Ben Websters Vej”.

Dive back to 1965 for this radio set from one of the all-time greats.


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